Yoshihide Suga, the Prime Minister of Japan, has announced a state of emergency for the nation’s capital and neighboring areas as COVID-19 cases gush to the highest levels since the beginning of the pandemic.
The emergency announcement will be in place from Thursday until February 2 and implements in Tokyo and the three surrounding prefectures Kanagawa, Saitama, and Chiba. The emergency includes several restrictions on daily life.
Suga has commanded companies to reduce office populations by 70% and encourage their staff to work from home.
People living in Tokyo and in the surrounding areas are also motivated to avoid non-essential outings. Sporting events are also ordered to limit the amount of audience present. Also, the hospitality sector has suffered, with restaurants ordered to close by 8 p.m.
Suga said on Thursday that the government would give upto 1.8 million yen ($17,400) every month to each restaurant that obeys the request to shorten its working hours.
Despite all of these new measures, schools will remain open.
“There have been fewer cases of school infections spreading from children to society. And we would love to save the learning opportunities of children who will lead the future,” the Prime Minister said Thursday at a press conference.
Suga stressed that the nation still intends to hold the Tokyo Paralympic and Olympic games in July, despite the emergency.
Suga said that he is determined to secure games and hold safe by taking all possible actions against the pandemic.
Japan’s first emergency, announced last spring, very early in the pandemic, lasted more than a month. It saw non-essential businesses and schools closed.
The current emergency state comes as new COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases in Tokyo surge to their highest levels.
On Wednesday, Japan recorded 5,958 new COVID-19 cases, its highest daily caseload. And this is the first time cases have surpassed the 5000 mark including 75 deaths.